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Between Iraq and a Hard Place

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February 15th, 2003

Two million protesters march through the streets of London. It is the biggest demonstration anywhere, ever.

A 28th of the British population has descended on London to tell the government it wants no part in the anticipated war on Iraq. The crowd is in good spirits, there is anger, certainly, but the immensity of the demonstration imposes on the participants an awed good-nature. After all, this is a march for PEACE, a fact even the Anarchist and Fundamentalist hot-heads in the crowd recognise and respect. There will be just 4 arrests all day.

As the protesters march down Gower street they are applauded from the balconies. A French flag hangs from a second floor window, a young woman is leaning out of it and conducting the multitude in impromptu renditions of the Marseillaise. The old enemy forgotten in respect for France's quest for peace.

The Brixton Methodist choir sing a gospel version of Edwin Starr's "War, what is it good for?" as they march. Hundreds of sound systems belt out "Give Peace a Chance" and "All you need is love". People grin and cry and grin and laugh and think to themselves, "They can't ignore this!".

It takes about six hours to get from Euston to Hyde Park, many people take short cuts through SOHO carrying banners marked "Leeds against the war" or "Bodmin for peace" or (perhaps more appropriately given the location) "Women of America, keep your Bush under control". In the park, speaker after speaker proclaims the folly of Bush and Blair's rush to war.

Ms Dynami-tee-hee

The rapper Ms Dynamite finishes the song she dedicated to the children of Iraq, and a massive roar rattles round Hyde Park. Because of the noise she can't make out the instructions coming through on her radio earpiece. She presses it back into her ear. Not sure if she has caught the gist correctly, she looks to her left where the next speaker is waiting and smiles. She turns and addresses the crowd.

"All right, everybody, I was going to read a poem, I wrote about this situation of oppression we have got ourselves into all over the world...but we have a new speaker now who was not scheduled, and I think I should get out the way. So peace to everyone and I what you to welcome a new convert to our mission the HONOURABLE Robin Cook..."

The noise is unbelievable. Cook, his face tensed in a grimace of determination, kisses Dynamite on the cheek and, his mouth relaxing for a moment, winks. She will never be sure if his hand brushes her arse by accident or deliberately. Labour's big gun is about to speak for peace.

He came not to praise Caesar, but to bury him

Excerpts from Cook's speech.

"We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.

Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target..."

"...What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops."

"An invasion of Iraq would be illegal without a new UN resolution, and merely immoral with one."

"I am forced to choose between legality and morality. I have seen the governments legal advice, without a second resolution a war would be illegal under international law. There will be no second resolution."

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